All of us have a need to achieve goals in our lives and to feel a sense of purpose. Inherently, we are also endowed with the ability to achieve goals and develop purpose. This ability or potential often goes untapped because we aren't challenged to operate at maximum potential. Behavioral scientists agree that few people ever use more than a fraction of their potential. People possess more internal ability than they will ever use. As a leader, your challenge is getting people to use more of the potential they already possess. The biggest obstacle you face is the limitation that most people place upon themselves. Next, is the limitation that you place upon them.
Though many of us are not aware of it, we all carry within us a mental picture of ourselves and others. This mental model exists whether or not we are conscious of it. If we see others as dumb, lazy, or slow, we put policies and procedures in place that reflect this belief. The self-fulfilling prophecy can be generalized to the leader-fulfilling prophecy. If we expect people to have limitations, to fail, they will. In so doing, we actually reinforce the qualities we are looking to change.
We think and perform exactly like the type of person we visualize ourselves to be, and the people we lead, think, and perform up to our expectations of them. If we have a negative self image, each challenge we encounter filters through a system of unconscious fears and doubts. People you lead who view themselves as failures will find a way to fail, even if they get the "good breaks". Then, through a process of unconscious rationalization and bad breaks, they will manage to prove to themselves that they are, indeed, victims of failure.
You may even see examples of this phenomenon at fairly high levels in your organization, when you watch how some people react to utilizing computers. Have you ever attempted to get some of your key people (who were introduced to high technology late in life) to utilize computer technology? If doing so was in any way optional, they probably had every excuse in the world why it wasn't necessary or why it wasn't important for them. Some may have even attempted to sell you on the fact that they were more effective without it!
Such "objective proof' of failure is a major roadblock in a person's path to success. Individuals seldom realize that the difficulty lies in poor self-image and in their own evaluation of themselves. Try to tell that staff person that he only "thinks" he is inefficient at the computer. His "results" tell him differently. The real issue could be a lack of confidence about his ability to learn. It could be resistance to change, or it could be fear of the unknown. Until and unless you address the source of the problem, all the training and equipment in the world will be underutilized. Everyone in a leadership role should continuously look at how they can be more effective in developing and utilizing the skills of the people they lead and manage.
Effective leaders have a strong belief in themselves and their capabilities and are able to empower others by helping them to develop the same kind of confidence.